How to Take Your Yoga Practice on Your Travels

Thinking of integrating yoga in your travel routine? Fear not, it’s simpler than you’d think. Drop-in classes are a staple of the practice and yoga has gained international notoriety which makes it more and more accessible all over the world. The fabulous news is that even if it hasn’t reached your destination, there is no reason why you can’t you lay your yogi footprint by indulging in some solo practice. It’s easy to do yoga nearly anywhere you go, because unlike some fitness routines, there isn’t a lot of equipment that you need to bring. If you’d like to keep up your yoga practice on your travels, here’s what you need to know.

Yoga options: The groundwork

In order to keep your practice fresh while enjoying your travels, investigating pre-departure will be key. Knowing what to expect will give you a reality check as well as save on quality sightseeing time once you reach your destination. So hit up your favorite search engine and dig up your options. If you want to zoom in on schools or even teachers, yoga magazines and websites are chuck full of advice. Internationally recognized publications such as Yoga Journal or the organization Yoga Alliance have directories that link you to teachers and schools all over the world.

Don’t dismiss retreat options: even if you are not looking for a full on retreat (which can be pricey), you can ask the teacher if it’s possible to simply join for the classes. You’d be surprised at the openness of the responses. This way you can indulge in luxurious classes without forking the bill for the posh hotels, food and massages most likely included in the overall quote. Also, the teacher may be able to refer other schools or teachers in the country.

Inquire at the hotel where you’ll be staying if they know of any teachers and schools. You may not be the first one to inquire and information may be easily available if you simply ask. The BootsnAll Boards have discussion groups where you can post your questions. Give it a shot, someone may hold all the secrets to your yoga inquiries.

Unearthing yoga cultures

It’s bound to happen. You’ll visit a country that thinks yoga is yogurt. Don’t worry if information is not readily available. You may be setting a precedent, there is nothing wrong with that. If the internet does not offer much in terms of information, don’t despair. Once on-site, locate the tourist information office and query them. Even if they don’t know right of the bat, they will probably indulge in some research on your behalf since they know the city better.

Walking around the city, keep your eyes peeled. As you explore your new surroundings, keep an eye out and scope out potential schools or gyms. For example, ask the clerks at the natural food store, organic beauty product shop or yoga attire store as they may have like-minded people who also indulge in a yoga practice and who might be able to direct you accordingly.

Gyms offer classes at times. It may not your typical class, but it can bring you to a teacher who can offer private tutorial or even refer you to a school. Ask any traveler on the premise if they know of any yoga schools. It is possible there are none, so be prepared to not always find an actual school.

Yoga investigation yields results

Brilliant, victory is at hand and schools have been found. Now is the time to take a few more minutes to ensure your research will fit in with your traveling time frame to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Once you’ve found a few potential options, write to the schools and double check their location to find a school conveniently located and easily accessible. Classes tend to be early in the morning or even later in the evening, so you do want to make sure you can get there safely and in a timely fashion.

Confirm their schedules to ensure you don’t walk, tuktuk, dala dala, rickshaw or cab your way there for 7am when the class has been moved to 10am or that the school is closed for 2 weeks while the teacher is on vacation. It’ll avoid a waste of time. If they do not have an email, ask you hostel or hotel reception to place a call on your behalf.

While you are at it, inquire about the price and availability of gear: are mats available for rent? How much?

Keep in mind that what you may find could be different from what you are used to. Bikram may not be practiced, but Vinyasa Flow may be readily available. Open your practice up and enjoy! Teachers all have their own style, it’s no surprise. Talk to your temporary teacher about your background, what you like/dislike, make all injuries or difficulties known and listen to yourself to avoid injuries.

Share your findings. Take brochures from the school and leave them at your accommodation. Post a blog on a travel site or advertise on networking sites.

Packing for yoga on the road

Packing for any trip is always an exercise in self-restraint. Or at least should be. Combining practicality, style and comfort when integrating yoga as part of your travels – think clothing that allows freedom of movement. Maybe not your new Muumuu though, but any t-shirt and comfy shorts will do.

Pack up comfortable clothes that can double as yoga attire or vice versa: thank tops, t-shirts, leggings, shorts. All can be worn for yoga or subsequently for exploration. Forgo any teeny tiny sports tops and daisy duke like shorts. Keep in mind that you may be visiting cultures that are more conservative.

If space is limited and your favorite sports bra has to be left behind, think of choosing a multi-function bra or buy a bikini that can double as beach and workout attire.

Yoga mats and props

Our dearest mats! We get use to a texture, thickness, color. A mat can be rolled into a suitcase or strapped to a backpack, but it is extra weight and unless you feel it will not be possible to do without your mat at all times, leave it behind and consider a few alternatives.

All schools have extra mats, so borrowing one or renting it should never pose a big issue. If the thought of stepping onto other people’s bacteria is a deterrent, bring sanitizing towels and wipe your mat down prior to your practice. Alternatively bring your towel (sarong, t-shirt, etc) and lay it on top of the mat.

Creative alternatives for props abound should you find yourself practicing alone in your hotel room. A towel can double as a mat for ground work or even as a blanket if you need extra knee support, yoga gloves and socks have some fans amongst practitioners, but be wary as you can end up slipping and sliding yourself into a down dog depending on the surface. Books can offer support instead of blocks and a scarf can double as band. Just remember to be more careful to avoid leaning onto a pile of books that could crumble under your weight.

Should props or their doppelgangers not be handy, you can always reduce your pose or do its variation, but be careful. Acquiring an injury is never top of the list, so listen to your body and adjust your routine accordingly.

Routines can be performed out of memory, but after a while, we all need an influx of change. Bring clippings of your favorite routines, buy magazines on the road, or if you have the luxury of space in your suitcase or backpack throw in a yoga book. If you have a teacher at home, why not ask them to create a few routines? Mostly, don’t forgo taking a few minutes every now and then to log on to your favorite yoga site and create new routines. It’s the most space efficient method and endlessly creative.

Salute the sun anywhere

Finding a space to do yoga can be challenging. Crammed hotel rooms don’t allow much flow, neither do hostels. But if you’re itching to practice nonetheless, use the limited room to work on specifics such as alignment: triangle, side planks or tree pose can be squeezed into narrow spaces. Not only do they allow you to focus on your alignment, but they’ll offer support should you lose your balance spotting a huge spider balancing over your head. For more on poses you can do with a limited space, check out the lululemon blog.

Take it outdoors. Beaches, lake fronts or open spaces found during your daily hikes offer more than great photo ops, they give you endless space and serenity to indulge in your practice. On-lookers can be slightly disturbing at times, but people walk and jog down the beach all the time. Why not yoga? Focus on your routine, pay attention to the challenge your natural platform brings and enjoy.

Namaste.

All pictures courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission, except last photo from lululemon athletica

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Older comments on How to Take Your Yoga Practice on Your Travels

Traveller At Heart
17 September 2010

That last image is me – in my dreams and 30 years younger! Are you any relation to Jean Béliveau – my favorite Canadian hockey player?

Audrey Béliveau
17 September 2010

Alas, I am not a close relative. Probably a distant one at best.

I’m certain that last image could still be you. Cheers.